February 15, 2010
Thank you for inviting me to speak to you today. I'm thrilled that Andre Lewis, our new Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Education, could join me here this afternoon. This position was included in the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act because Congressman Holt and his colleagues recognized the need for leadership in international education in the U.S. Department of Education. When Congressman Holt received the 2009 Language Flagship Leadership Award from the American Councils for International Education last May, he called upon congressional leaders and the country in general "to reach a political consensus in this country that our government must change course and stop undervaluing and under-investing in foreign language education. Leaders from both parties should recognize the issue's importance and bring forth strategies to increase our interest and our ability in foreign languages."
Andre Lewis brings a wealth of experience in his previous work at the State Department and in global economic development for the city of Los Angeles as well as degrees in Russian Studies and Law. I hope you'll get to know and work with Andre.
We're also fortunate that Kirsten White, who serves as a policy advisor to Dr. Jill Biden, the Vice President's wife, could also be here with us today. Dr. Biden gave a remarkable keynote speech this summer at UNESCO's World Conference on Higher Education in Paris. She especially emphasized the role of community colleges and the need for expanded international exchanges across institutions of higher education here and around the world. We are fortunate to have President Obama, Vice President Biden, Dr. Biden, Secretary Duncan, and Deputy Assistant Secretary Lewis, all of whom have an expressed commitment and deep understanding of how America must move forward in our new international roles and responsibilities.
Like many of you who live in Washington, D.C. and the Northeast, we've spent the last week digging ourselves out of the snow. But during that time, I realized that even as the snow fell with winds blowing at forty miles per hour, we could still communicate with people all over the world through the Internet and technologies that have leveled the playing field, so there was really no downtime last week. As Thomas Friedman has said, these new technologies have made "Beijing, Bangalore and Bethesda next-door neighbors." It's so true!
In today's world, the lines that separate purely domestic from international matters are increasingly blurred or blended as the case may be, and the world's economies and societies are now connected as never before.
Last summer, President Obama spoke in Cairo, Egypt, at a conference hosted by two remarkable institutions of higher education, Cairo University and Al-Azhar. He spoke about the sweeping changes brought by modernity and globalization and how we need to promote cooperation among people all over the world.
The President said that "education and innovation will be the currency of the 21st century," and he urged people of the world to "expand exchange programs, and increase scholarships"—like the one that brought his father to America.
He also encouraged more Americans to study abroad, to invest in online learning, and to create online networks that will allow young people in Kansas to communicate instantly with students in Cairo.
The President's words underline what many of us in higher education already understand and are working towards—internationalization of our colleges and universities so that we can infuse a global perspective into higher education research, teaching, and learning.
But as educators, we are not naïve to the facts about where America stands. Today roughly 40 percent of 25- to 34-year-old Americans hold college degrees. That was good enough to lead the world a generation ago.
But now the U.S. is 10th in the world. And, it is affecting our ability to compete in the global marketplace.
President Obama has challenged us to become first in the world in college graduates by the year 2020. To meet the President's goal, we have to move from a national college graduation rate of 40 percent, which has remained stagnant for several decades, to about 60 percent within the decade, including degrees from two-year and four-year colleges and universities.
The President's 2020 goal is ambitious. Secretary Duncan calls it the North Star, and we're working aggressively to meet this goal on many fronts.
- President Obama said that being educated is about being a good citizen, being able to think critically, evaluate the world, and process all of the information, knowledge, and technology that engulfs us. He also called college tuition costs "crushing," and he restated his commitment to doing more than ever to help students go to college and graduate on time.
- The President's 2011 budget request provides a historic increase for the U.S. Department of Education and realigns its programs to be more efficient while having a greater impact.
We have proposed a cradle-to-career agenda with these budgetary highlights:
- $156 billion in Federal Student Aid for new grants, loans, and work-study assistance. I'll talk more about the President's higher education agenda in a few minutes.
- A $3 billion increase for programs under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act— known as ESEA. This would be the largest increase a president has ever proposed in the 45-year history of the law. The administration will be working with Congress to reform ESEA programs to focus them on higher standards, more efficient use of tax dollars, and a targeted federal role on the most important issues facing K–12 schools.
- The President will propose another $1 billion in funding once Congress passes a reauthorization bill. The additional funds will support a new program rewarding schools for their success improving student achievement, assessments that will better measure student achievement, and after-school programs.
- Regarding funding for increasing foreign language acquisition and other critical subjects in the K–12 curriculum, the Obama Administration has proposed a new line item in the Fiscal Year 2011 budget called "Effective Teaching and Learning for a Well-Rounded Education" (ETL-WRE).
- This new program would consolidate the current ESEA programs that support improvement of education in reading, writing, mathematics and science, arts, foreign language, history, civics and government, and economics. It would give states and school districts the flexibility to determine what programs would best meet student needs. The current programs total $226 million. Of that, Foreign Language Assistance is funded at $26.9 million. For the Fiscal Year 2011, the new consolidated program would increase by $39 million to a total of $265 million. Continuation grants from existing programs would be funded from the new program.
- The FY11 agenda also includes $9.3 billion over the next 10 years for early learning programs to prepare children for success in kindergarten and beyond.
- As you've no doubt read in the newspapers and blogs over the past six months, we have also done a great deal to support the efforts of 48 of our 50 states to create higher academic standards to prepare students for success in college and careers.
Through Race to the Top, we have made a commitment to states that are engaged in serious reform.
- Our competitive grants will focus on big-picture goals focused on student success and teacher quality and will give recipients the freedom to decide how to meet those goals.
- Before we spent a dime on Race to the Top, states moved forward on reforming teacher evaluation, setting college- and career-ready standards, expanding charter schools, and other reforms.
- The FY11 budget will add $1.35 billion to Race to the Top for reforms at the state level and create an opportunity to support district-level programs.
- It also will give another $500 million to the new $650 million fund about to be announced called Investing In Innovation—funds to support local projects across the nation to incubate, expand, and scale up promising reforms that will result in higher levels of student achievement and success.
- All of our goals for innovation and reform apply not only to our K–12 agenda but also to higher education.
Regarding College Affordability
Toward this end, the Obama administration is providing the biggest investment in federal student aid since the GI Bill.
- HR 3221, which was passed by the House and will be released by the Senate shortly, is the vehicle to implement the President's higher education and adult workforce agenda as well as the early learning fund I mentioned before.
- The College Access and Completion Fund along with the American Graduation Initiative will ensure that students and families have the financial support they need to pay for college and help ensure the means to reach the President's 2020 goal of graduating about 10 million more students over the next ten years, 5 million from four-year colleges and universities and the other 5 million from America's community colleges.
- In combination with the pending legislation, the fiscal 2011 budget would provide $156 billion in federal student aid for new grants, loans, and other assistance—a $58 billion increase, up from $98 billion in fiscal 2008. Nearly 15 million students and their families will use this assistance to pay for college— 3 out of 5 students in higher education will receive federal financial assistance under the proposed budget.
- The Obama administration also has unveiled a simplified FAFSA application. We will be making further changes so it is easier to apply for student aid. We've already cut out nearly half of the questions that were unnecessary hurdles for students and families.
- The administration also proposes to further reduce recent graduates' student loan payments through its new income-contingent repayment plan. Borrowers would pay no more than 10 percent of their income on student loan payments. After 20 years of payments, their debt would be forgiven.
- For students choosing to enter public service occupations, such as teachers, doctors and nurses in public hospitals, policemen, firemen, and other public service professions vital to our nation's security and prosperity, their public service loans would be fully forgiven after 10 years of payments.
Looking ahead, between now and 2020, through the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act—known as SAFRA, the Obama higher education plan proposes to:
- Increase Pell Grants to $5,710 next year and index future increases to inflation plus 1 percent. Almost 8 million students will receive Pell Grants in the 2010–11 academic year. The cash value will increase 13 percent. Pell Grants would increase to $6,900 by the end of the decade.
- SAFRA will also provide $10.6 billion to support community colleges to increase access, quality, and student achievement, using best practices and evidence-based innovations. Right now, 60 percent of freshman enter higher education needing remedial coursework and in community colleges, only 25 percent of students earn degrees within six years. We must change these statistics.
- Further, the SAFRA legislation would direct $3.5 billion to expand access to higher education and ensure students complete their degrees. Right now, 40 percent of freshmen don't earn a degree within six years of enrolling in higher education institutions. For poor and minority students, that percentage is even higher. We need to improve on all of these fronts to meet the President's 2020 goal.
- SAFRA also includes $1.3 billion for Graduation Promise grants to improve high school education across the country and allocates $500 million over 10 years to create world-class online courses for students to take and college professors to use in their courses as they wish. The courses will be available for free, 24 by 7 by 365. These robust, modern courses will take advantage of the latest breakthroughs in cognitive science to ensure both self-paced and accelerated learning.
- They'll help students prepare for college and provide adults in the workforce the opportunity to improve their skills on their own time.
- They will also help college control costs and equalize access to a high-quality education by giving free access to courses commonly offered across the country.
- All of these SAFRA investments that I've highlighted will be paid for through significant savings in the student loan programs over the next decade. Right now, we are subsidizing banks for loans. Our plan will cut out the middle-man. We will loan money to students directly through the Treasury. We'll use the estimated $87 billion in savings from Direct Lending for what's actually important—helping students afford and succeed in college.
Now let me get back to Thomas Friedman and talk more about what's relevant to your work: the flattening of our world which is having a profound influence on our global agenda that stretches across business, jobs, and education.
At the Department of Education and as your Under Secretary, I can tell you that we recognize that international education cannot be seen as an "add-on" or an "extra" either in higher education or in K–12. The skills and knowledge acquired through international education are essentially the very same skills all graduates will need to succeed in our global society. Going forward, most, if not all, Americans will need to have strong critical thinking skills, the ability to work effectively with people from diverse backgrounds and cultures, the ability to work in teams, the ability to communicate in more than one language, and the ability to work increasingly across borders.
Ensuring that students acquire global competencies is vital to America's economic competitiveness, national security, and capacity to work effectively with other countries. Our students must become global citizens with the skills and knowledge critical to confronting the myriad global problems of today and the future, whether they are economic, political, health-related or environmental. Our Department has a number of programs that are directly relevant to a well-rounded and complete education.
For example, in close cooperation with the State Department, our Title VI and Fulbright-Hays programs are the beginning of the pipeline fostering international understanding and supporting U.S. national security. These programs support foreign language acquisition, area and international studies, and infrastructure development at U.S. colleges and universities. They ensure a steady supply of graduates with expertise in less-commonly-taught languages, world areas, and transnational trends. In Fiscal Year 2010, the President requested, and Congress provided, increased funding for these proven people-to-people exchanges which President Obama has requested be maintained for Fiscal Year 2011. The sustained funding level for exchanges is $633 million. Without the incentives provided by this funding, basic economics would prevent many universities from offering and students from studying the languages and cultures of many of the world's current trouble spots.
Professors return from their Fulbright-Hays experiences with ideas that enrich their teaching and broaden their students' understanding of the world.
For example, after lecturing at the University of Abomey-Calavi in Benin, Netiva Caftori of Northeastern Illinois University developed a unit about how information technology is being used around the world.
Brian Murphy, a professor of fisheries at Virginia Tech, taught at the Autonomous University of Guadalajara in Mexico.
His experience led to a memorandum of understanding between the two institutions and led to one of his students conducting dissertation research in Mexico. These are the kinds of partnerships that change the way Americans see the world and the way other countries see and build relationships with us. It's all about building bridges and relationships throughout the world.
Our FIPSE international consortium programs run four international special focus competitions each year. The FY 2011 budget would increase funding for these programs from $10.3 million to $12.5 million.
These innovative FIPSE programs address the internationalization of higher education on a number of fronts: multilateral, multi-institutional collaboration; student mobility; mutual recognition of credits and study activities; development of shared and/or common curricula; acquisition of host country languages; development of apprenticeships and other work activities; and faculty and staff collaborations and exchanges.
We are also meeting with ministers of education from other countries. Just in the past several months, we have met with delegations from Pakistan, Columbia, Chile, China, and India who wish to build hundreds of new community colleges and universities to spur our global economy and social prosperity. We have also renewed and strengthened our relationships with the education communities at UNESCO and OECD, and are working closely with the State Department and AID to offer help to immediate areas of crisis like Haiti.
We know the need in Haiti is tremendous. The earthquake had catastrophic consequences. Unofficial reports suggest that most of the buildings of higher education institutions were destroyed. Our staff is working closely with AID to monitor the situation and has offered assistance when the relief effort moves into the rebuilding stage.
If you have suggestions or resources to share, please let Andre Lewis know as we will be working closely with the American Council on Education, our international partners, State and AID to coordinate support in the months ahead.
We know that we have a lot to learn from other nations' experiences and much of our own experiences and research to share with them.
I am delighted that OECD has just announced its new AHELO initiative. AHELO is an international pilot project to Assess Higher Education Learning Outcomes. The Lumina and Hewlett Foundations have been extraordinarily helpful and four states at a minimum will be participating with several other countries on this project in which we will look at international competencies, benchmarks, strategies and policies, with the goal of improving the quality of our educational programs, services and research in a global context.
Last November, Secretary Duncan participated in the 10th annual International Education week, a joint initiative of the Education and State Departments, where he urged all Americans to explore the world's cultures and languages.
In our work and travels, here at home and internationally, we see that the overarching challenges we face in education are essentially the same all over the world. We are committed to facing these challenges and to the key role international education plays in ensuring a more secure future for all of us.
As the President said in Cairo, "All of us share this world for but a brief moment in time. The question is whether we spend that time focused on what pushes us apart or whether we commit ourselves to an effort to find common ground, to focus on the future we seek for our children, and to respect the dignity of all human beings."
Thank you for your leadership and the significant roles that you and your organizations are playing to support our global agenda by implementing our shared vision for a better future as we expand our commitment to internationalize higher education.
Thank you all!
We will now have time for questions. I'd like Andre Lewis to come up and join me at the podium!